Nordic Wikimedia/Yearbook 2011/Page 08 The Wikimedia Commons phenomenon, photo donations

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The Wikimedia Commons phenomenon, photo donations[edit]

Millions of images and sounds are waiting to be reused[edit]

The Wikimedia Commons is a huge media file repository. It holds more than 12 million photographs, sounds, films, digrams, scans, etc. All files uploaded are required to be either under a free license or comepletely without copyright. This makes it legal for everyone to share, edit, and re-use these works for just about any given purpose without asking the author for permission first. Commercial use is explicitely allowed, too.

Wikimedia's projects (Wikipedia, Wikisource, Wikiquote, etc.) all use Commons media content by simply adding a link in an article, and it will retrieve the file for display. Users reading these articles will then be able click at these files to see photgraphs, play sounds or view the video clips in Commons. Thus, there is no need to upload the file locally to the project. Many articles have links back to categories on Commons where users may find even more files on the subject than those visible in the article.

Commons is, however, not just available for Wikimedia projects. Everyone may use photos or other files hosted on Commons. They can be freely re-used in books, newspapers, or on websites, provided the originator behind them is named, and the license quoted.

Thanks to a system of categories, Commons is built up quite logically allowing easy browsing for exactly what you need. Be it hotels on Lower East Side Manhattan, electric locomotives in India, actors from Egypt – or something completely else – Commons probably has it. Most categories are linked to two properties - the one often being geography (i.e., country). You can even find paintings and World War I photos. With thie immense volume of files at Wikimedia Commons, numerous themes are covered – try do a search and browse through some categories.

Just like Wikipedia, everyone can contribute to Commons by uploading photos, adding or editing text, or helping find the right category for a file. Commons is not censored, so if you are a big fan of a sports club, a specific kind of dog or a one particular brand of cars you can take photos and upload them to Commons in the numbers you prefer. As long as the quality is good and the photos are usefull they are welcome, and will not be deleted. That is perhaps also one of the reasons why Commons have some of the worlds best photos; they are taken by people who are really passionate about the issues that they document.



The content is supplied by different types of groups. One major group is simple individuals who take a photo and upload it, or makes a drawing/some graphic. Often they have seen an article on Wikipedia which lacks just the right illustration - and they upload it to Wikimedia Commons. A second group is cultural institutions such as museums. Often they have a huge digital archive with e.g. photographies of the exhibited objects. The photographs could even be what is exhibited.

Since 2005 there have been donations of more than 600,000 files from museums, publishers, archives, libraries, polictical parties and even private companies. All kinds of donations are welcome as they all increases the likelyhood to just that illustration that is perfect the exactly that article. The biggest single donation is from the United Stats' National Archives and Records Administration in Washington D.C. with 120,000 files. Other, substantial donation s of more than 50.000 photos, include the German Federal Archive, the Dutch Tropical Museum, Robert Levinski mineral collection, and the German Phototeque. Not least, the Wikipedia Loves Monuments 2011 competition brought close to 170,000 photos.

The donations are very valuable due to their often high-quality and vital scientific character. Often, it would be difficult or even impossible for users today to create a free image of the donated subject – most of the Dutch Tropensmuseum's 50,000 files from the former Dutch colonies are historical, while many of AntWeb's 32,000 files are high-quality close-ups of ants, and Garros Galería's 31 photos all are of copyrighted art.

There are Nordic donations, as well. In co-operation with Wikimedia Sweden, contributions have been graciously donated by Regionsarkivet, Bonnier and Vänsterpartiet, Similarly, encouraged by Wikimedia Norway, donations have been done by Telenor Group, Oslo City Museum, and some political parties.


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